Lost SVT women found in Botswana

Two SVT employees who had been missing in the Kalahari desert in Botswana have been found unhurt.

Jenny Söderqvist and Helene Åström became stranded when their car broke down on Sunday morning, and travelled by eight hours on a tractor they started with a tin opener. They eventually reached a village on Thursday, where they could re-establish contact with the outside world.

The pair told SVT’s news programme Rapport that their ordeal started when they suddenly smelt smoke in the car.

“The whole car started burning and so we got out as it was moving,” Söderqvist told the programme in a phone interview.

As soon as they had got out of the car, it exploded. The women then walked for three or four hours until they found a ranger’s cabin, but there were no people there.

The pair slept in light clothing, despite nightime temperatures approaching zero degrees centigrade. When they woke, they saw that there were more buildings in the area.

“We went there to look for rangers, but there were none there,” said Åström.

Söderqvist and Åström looked in the windows of the buildings and then broke into the one that seemed best equipped. There they found warm clothes, water and food, but searched in vain for a phone.

After three days and lots of broken keys, they managed with the aid of a tin opener to start a tractor that was standing on the site. Once they had got it started they did not dare to stop, so drove constantly for eight hours. Eventually they saw some people, threw themselves off the tractor and asked for help.

According to Swedish Radio’s Staffan Sonning, who has just arrived in the area, the village reached by the women is called Ghanzi.

“We are very relieved,” said SVT’s Helga Baagöe on hearing the news.

Baagöe was able to confirm that the women were in good health and said they would now return to the capital, Gaborone, where they are working.

The pair are on leave from SVT’s news and current affairs division, and are working on an aid project to help establish public service radio and TV in Botswana. The project is being carried out under the auspices of the Swedish government’s aid organisation Sida.

The women had set out on a private trip to the Kalahari desert on Saturday, where they were planning on visiting a nature reserve. The reserve they were visiting covers a area larger than Denmark.

Colleagues raised the alarm when they failed to arrive back at their hotel in Gaborone on Monday evening.

Photo on front page: Bengt O Nordin/SVT